Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Social Media

Chuck Todd: Social media has flattened out barriers to entry for presidential candidates

If you ask NBC Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd how social media has changed political coverage, he’ll tell you that it’s made it more reactive, and more anecdotal.

Chuck Todd

“140 characters is a great way of sharing the anecdote, but you can sometimes be drilling down so far that you forget the big picture,” Todd told me in a phone interview. He said he feels lucky to have a job where he can share anecdotes on Twitter and his TV show “The Daily Rundown,” and then take a look at the bigger picture on the “NBC Nightly News” and the “Today Show.”

Using Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain as an example, Todd also said that social media has helped flatten out the barriers to entry for a presidential candidate: “Before social media, Herman Cain would not have been able to get the type of traction he’s gotten that would have allowed him to be in the presidential debate just four years ago.”

I interviewed Todd about this and about how he uses social media — Twitter in particular — to get news and share it with others. I also talked with him about why he thinks blocking people on Twitter is anti-First Amendment and why “the media is flat.”

I’ve admired Todd’s work for a long time, so I was happy to have the opportunity to talk with him. He was friendly and open, and our talk seemed more like a genuine conversation than a formal interview. Cheers to that.

You can read the full interview here. …

Why Twitter Matters to Journalism

A University of Tampa student recently asked for my input regarding the use of Twitter in the journalism world. She reached out to me for comment, but didn’t end up writing the story.  So, for what it’s worth, I’m posting her questions and my answers here. Feel free to disagree with, or expand on, my points. You can follow me on Twitter @MallaryTenore.

1. What do you think are the main advantages of using Twitter to report news?

Dissemination of news. I use Twitter in place of an RSS reader because I find it to be a quality tool for assembling news. Twitter is a great resource for reporters because it is a way to stay on top of breaking news, solicit feedback and cultivate sources. Some reporters I know, for instance, will pose a reporting-related question to people on Twitter in hopes that they can get a lead or a source from it. Twitter is also great because it allows for a diversity of voices. Depending on who you’re following, you can get a wide variety of news that you might not otherwise find out about if you’re just looking at the same Web sites every day.

2. What are the disadvantages, and what changes would you like to see made?

I think that while Twitter can be extremely beneficial in the reporting process, it can also give us “an easy way out.” Reporters, for instance, may just turn to Twitter as a resource and then stop that. When it comes to finding sources, Twitter is a good starting point. The real reporting comes afterward, in the follow-up phone calls and interviews that result from what the reporter found out on Twitter. Another disadvantage is that sometimes the silly language of Twitter — tweet, twoosh, twitteria — can give people the wrong impression of the site and lead them to believe that it shouldn’t be taken seriously as a tool for journalists. Another disadvantage is that many people think that just because they can use Twitter, they should. It’s just like any other medium; sometimes it works better for certain stories than others. (Example: Rocky Mountain News journalist tweeting a funeral.)



3. Do you believe Twitter has enhanced or diminished the quality of journalism?

I wouldn’t say that Twitter has necessarily enhanced the quality of journalism, but I would say it has enhanced the ways that journalists are able to communicate information and the speed at which they can communicate it. Now journalists can tweet during court hearings and sports games (depending on restrictions), and other live events. Twitter can make news seem more immediate and more personal, especially when reporters build a big base of followers and then use their voice and storytelling style to connect with them. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times does a good job of this.

4. Is this trend on the rise or flaming out?

I would say that in the past year or so, Twitter has become increasingly popular, especially among younger and mobile Internet users. When I first wrote about Twitter back in September 2007, very few news organizations were using it, and I got a lot of comments from readers who said they thought the site was dumb, irrelevant and “ridiculous.” Now, people seem to embrace it. Facebook is even copying many of Twitter’s features. Now, for instance, you can @reply someone in a Facebook status update. Will Twitter continue to thrive as a leading social media platform moving forward? Probably. But I have no doubt that other sites like it will soon emerge.

Helpful Twitter resources from Poynter.org (@poynter), the site I write/edit for:

Related Poynter/News University (@NewsUniversity) resources:

What should I add to this blog entry? How are you using Twitter as a journalist?

Sites That Help You Build, Learn More About Your Twitter Community

There are lots of neat sites to help you familiarize yourself with, and build, your Twitter community.

Here are a couple that come to mind:

Twellow — White Pages for Twitter

TweetDeck, Twhirl and Twitterfall — Desktop applications for Twitter

Qwitter — Site that lets you know whenever someone stops following you. The site seems to pride itself on “Catching Twitter quitters.” Sneaky!

Search.twitter.com — A Twitter search engine

Twittersheep — Characterizes your “flock” of followers using keywords

I experimented with Twittersheep and found that words such as “journalist,” “media” and “reporter” best describe my Twitter followers. No surprise there! You can find me on Twitter @mallarytenore.

Screengrab of my "Twitter flock"

Screengrab of my "Twitter flock"

Twitter Tatoos — The Next Big Thing?

So here’s a guy who wants to start tattooing his forearm with different people’s Twitter names. People interested in having their names tattooed on his arm can place a bid to @drew on Twitter, using the hashtag #twittertattoo. Proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish foundation. Thanks to @mashable for the tip.

I wonder if people are going to start getting 140-character tatoos now, and how many people already have them …

Adding to the ’25 Random Things About Me’ Craze

I usually don’t like taking part in chain letters, but I couldn’t help but want to be part of the latest “25 Random Things About Me” craze. As I read people’s 25 posts, I was intrigued by how open and honest they were.

I learned a lot about some of my Facebook friends — especially those who I don’t know very well — and felt more connected to them. That’s what social networking sites are all about, right? Connecting with people through photos, notes, status updates, 25 Things, etc.? The New York Times ran a recent article about the craze, saying:

Unlike the chain letters of yesteryear, no money changes hands and no one is threatened with apocalyptic bad luck for refusing to comply. Yet the practice has spread so far and so fast that a Google search for “25 Random Things About Me” yields 35,700 pages of results, almost all of which seem to have been created in the last two weeks.

“It’s really interesting to sit there and try to think of 25 things that you’re willing to tell other people but that they don’t already know about you,” said Ms. Morgan, a health care industry publicist who has kissed 6 1/2 boys (No. 16), is legally blind (No. 19) and didn’t go to school until the fourth grade (No. 7).

I love how the reporter, Douglas Quenqua, includes details from each person’s “25 Things” list in the story.

Here are my 25 “heartfelt observations” about myself, which I thought would be difficult to write. Turns out, I had more than 25 things I wanted to say and more than 25 people I wanted to share them with. Tonight on Facebook, one of my friends actually posted a “25 MORE Things About Me” list. I don’t think I’m quite ready to do that … yet.

1.) I’ve known I wanted to be a journalist since I was 8. “Harriet the Spy” was one of my favorite books. I emulated Harriet and would “spy” on my neighbors and ask them if they’d seen any suspicious activity lately. I’d take notes about what they said in my Lisa Frank notebook, then write stories using the info I gathered.

2.) I’m an only child. When I was younger, I loved not having brothers and sisters. Now I want them.

3.) My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was 11. Feb. 9 will be the 12-year anniversary of her death. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about how strong she was, how lucky I am to have had her for that long, and how much I wish she were still here.

4.) I love climbing trees, even though I haven’t climbed one in years. I used to be fascinated by baobab trees because of their big hollow trunks. Almost every day as a child, I climbed the maple tree in my front yard and read.

5.) One summer I made $76 from selling lemonade. To attract customers, I would get in the middle of the road and jump on my pink and green pogo stick while waving a pool noodle in the air. I lived on a quiet street near the Department of Public Works, so all the workers would stop and I’d give them a Dixie cup of Paul Newman’s lemonade. I sold crafts, too — bookmarks, pins and other things.

6.) One of these “other things” was a craft I made up called a Refwingem. I made Refwingems out of plastic disks that I decorated with glitter glue. My college friends loved hearing about me selling Refwingems, so we named our room sophomore year “Room Refwingem.” When I moved to Florida, my colleagues liked the story, too. One of my Poynter coworkers has a Refwingem hanging on his office door. Another colleague has them hanging from the window in her house.

7.) I played the clarinet for four years in middle school. I would put a chair and music stand in my front yard and start playing. Slowly, my neighbors’ doors would shut. I never understood why …

8.) I twirled the baton competitively for about eight years. I once chipped my front tooth with the baton; I was looking up and the baton came crashing down on my mouth. Ouch. I used to twirl with fire in local parades. (It’s not as scary as it sounds.)

9.) I like feeding ducks. There was a pond in the back yard of the house where I grew up. I’d literally call out “Quack, quack, quack, quack,” and the ducks would come flying out of nowhere, looking for food.

10.) I wish I weren’t such a worrywart.

11.) My favorite book is “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote “The Secret Garden.” At one point in the book, the main character, Sara Crewe, drew a circle on the floor of the attic where she was living. She said she’d be safe within that circle and that nothing could harm her if she stayed in it. I always thought this was a sad, but at the same time comforting, scene. We all need little safety circles sometimes.

12.) I’ve learned that if you want to write, you can’t let that passion slip away. I’m happiest when I’m writing and would someday like to write a memoir.

13.) Mother-daughter relationships fascinate me. In college, I wrote some papers about the subject. One of my favorites was a 25-page paper for my Contemporary Women Philosophers class about philosopher Julia Kristeva’s thoughts on motherhood. It was called: “Kristeva, Mother, and Child: Finding Hope in Regaining What Has Been Lost.”

14.) My first car was a ’93 Ford Tempo that was Bimmeny Blue in color. It was my mom’s car, which we kept after she passed away. My dad let me have it as my first car, and it was a stick shift, which I’ve always preferred driving. After I graduated from college, my dad, my grandma and I drove it from Massachusetts to Florida with all of my belongings. The car was running fine until I got in an accident last year and totaled it. I miss that car!

15.) I just adopted a new cat named Clara. She is the most loving cat I’ve ever met, and she makes me so happy!

12.) I am blessed with amazing friends. I desperately miss my friends from home and college. My Providence College friends are so much fun. There are 10 of us girls who were, and still are, really close. We called our group “FBW” as in “fun before work,” even though a lot of us didn’t usually follow this motto. I just recently found out that “FBW” is actually an acronym for something terribly different. …

13.) I like living in Florida and am glad I moved away after graduation so I could grow and experience new things, but I will always have a special place in my heart for New England. I can definitely see myself moving back there someday, after I do some more traveling. I miss autumn, historic buildings, winding back roads, hills, making snow angels.

14.) I collect books and am especially fond of old, smelly books. Now if only I could find time to actually read them!

15.) I love senior citizens and babies. Seniors have such great stories and are so wise, and babies, well they’re just plain adorable. My 86-year-old grandma, who I call “gramz,” is the coolest senior I know. She just started dating her neighbor, who’s 88. They call each other “80 teens.”

16.) One of my greatest fears is being alone — not meeting the right guy, not having a family of my own.

17.) I started running track races (for kids) when I was 6 years old. I ran cross-country and track in high school and am starting to run more now. I signed up for the Gasparilla half-marathon in March but haven’t been training as much as I should. Hope to still run it.

18.) I love languages. I double majored in Spanish and English in college and do my best to keep up with Spanish. Someday, I’d like to get my master’s in Hispanic studies.

19.) I played Marian the Librarian once in “The Music Man.” This was a much better role than when I played the coroner in “The Wizard of Oz.” Librarian v. little old, male munchkin. The difference was striking.

20.) It takes a lot to make me angry.

21.) When I’m really tired, I giggle … a lot. Laughter that hurts is one of the best feelings.

22.) I’m a night owl. It’s not unusual for me to go to bed at 2 a.m. or later on weeknights.

23.) I never liked brand names. I’d take Target or Marshall’s over Abercrombie or Coach any day.

24.) I spend too much time on the computer, but it helps me feel connected to the world around me, especially when I’m home alone.

25.) I love, love, love to sing and dance. I’ll admit — I sometimes have dance parties in my room, and I’m totally “that girl” who blasts the radio in my car with the windows down and sings loudly. Singing and dancing help me step outside of my more quiet self.

What does your list include?